Long-held Torch – Part 3

Author’s Note:  Thank you Ms. Joyce Pacheco for checking this chapter.

Richard spotted her while sitting behind the steering wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser that he brought in from Manila the other day.  Coming in by ferry was far from ideal but he needed to bring his own vehicle for  this visit so he can freely move around the island.  It also allowed him to volunteer to fetch a particular young lady whom  he had not been able to get out of his system for the past decade.

Maya has been standing by the top of the steps and looking around.  She has not seen him yet and he took advantage of the few minutes to admire and take his fill. He had always known that Maya would be a beauty but he was not prepared to see her adolescent feminine figure further develop into real womanly curves.  And he was not the only male appreciating her form, judging from the number of admiring looks thrown her way. His lips tightened in annoyance.

Richard schooled his features as he climbed out of his vehicle to make his way towards her. Maya turned swiftly when she heard him call her name. As her face was upturned towards him, he saw her eyes widen in surprise, or more likely in shock.

They both stood there wordlessly looking at each other. Richard noted the  high cheekbones and swan-like neck. While her smooth skin is currently marred by a frown, her doe eyes, her small straight nose, and lush pink lips merely confirmed what were already etched in his memory. His gaze lowered further to see that although she lost her baby fat, she had filled in all the right places.

Bloody hell! When did she develop those breasts and hips, he mentally groaned. 

Get a grip on your libido, Richard! You won’t make any headway with Maya if you suddenly jump her like a sex maniac.

Richard shut out the mental conversation with himself and concentrated on acting like a civilised man. This was difficult for he was acting like the other males in the immediate  vicinity  checking her out.  And he was willing to bet  that they are envious of him at that moment for he has the privilege of having her undivided attention seconds after softly calling her name, he thought deprecatingly.

“It’s nice to see you, too.” Richard greeted dryly and effectively shattering that intimate moment before gathering Maya’s extra-large luggage and duffel  bag.

“Teka, bakit ikaw ang sumusundo sakin?”  Maya was forced to almost run to keep up with Richard’s longer strides. After placing everything in the back of the four-wheel drive, he opened the passenger door for Maya who eyed him warily.

“What’s the matter, Maya? Are you scared of being alone with me in the vehicle?” Richard mocked her when she hesitated.

“The last time we were alone together…”

“Maya, the last time we saw each other, you were still a child.” Richard interrupted her  “Look, kung anuman yung nagawa ko, can we call a truce for the time being?”

His comment had obviously confused Maya.  A number of questions were written all over her face.  He could almost hear her asking whether he had forgotten that he had kissed her on the beach, whether he realised that he was her first kiss, whether he had forgotten how she struggled at first before visibly relaxing and opening  her mouth to give him access…

Richard heard her deep sigh before silently climbing into the vehicle. Slamming the door behind her, he smiled to himself. It was a small victory, to say the least.  She could have flatly refused to go anywhere with him.

Richard sat behind the wheel and looked at his companion who just stared back at him. He leaned over and her eyes rounded like saucers. His face was just a few inches from hers that he could see the golden flecks in her light brown eyes.  Richard’s gaze lowered to her nose that was finely beaded with perspiration  down to her slightly parted  lips that had always tempted him.  Maya was blushing as her breathing quickened in agitation, her size C breasts visibly heaving faster.

Well, at least now you know your nearness can still affect her.  

Without looking away, his left arm reached out for the seatbelt buckle and carefully strapped it across Maya’s chest to deftly click it in place. Maya blinked at the sound. His right brow just lifted mockingly at Maya before starting the engine.

“Are you hungry?”

“Whaaaat?” asked a bemused  Maya.

“And sabi ko, nagugutom ka ba? We can stop at a café.”

Maya shook her head. “I had in-flight breakfast.”

“We just have to pass by the bakery.”  What he bought were two large brown bags of oven-fresh pandesal  that was still warm. He handed them to Maya and restarted the engine.

“Wow, my favourite!”  Maya quickly grabbed and bit into one bun with such gusto that had Richard smiling his usual bedimpled lop-sided grin.  Richard wanted to point out  that she was supposed to be full  but decided against it. He needed  to refrain from teasing her.

“Na-miss mo ba?” referring to the baked product.

Maya nodded her head. “Lahat na-miss ko. Pandesal,  santan,  kare-kare ni Nanay Teresita, adobong lukan ni Mamang, suman sa latik, inihaw na seafoods…”

“Ako ba hindi mo na-miss?”  interrupted Richard.

“Ha?” her doe-shaped  eyes widened in surprise. She was unable to answer so she threw the question back at him. “Bakit namiss mo ba ‘ko?”

“I missed you a lot,  actually.” Richard admitted quietly as he focused his eyes ahead as they were going through an unsealed part of the highway. He quickly threw her a glance and he saw confusion marring her beautiful features once more.

“So what have you been doing with yourself, Maya? Dating anyone in particular?”

“Para ka namang si Boy Abunda kung magtanong?” Maya looked away.

Richard raised his eyebrows in query. “Well?”

“Well, what?”

“You did not answer my question.”  Richard’s jaw clenched while his hands gripped the wheel as if bracing himself. “Any boyfriend? Any regular date?”

“If you must know, I have a lot of male friends. As for regular dates—no, I am not dating anyone in particular.” Maya sighed “And you? Are you married? Got any kids yet?”

Richard smiled inwardly. She’s interested in his personal life. Surely, that’s another good sign?

“Gaya pa rin ng dati. Very much single.” Richard flashed her one of his charming lop-sided grins.

“How come?  Does becoming CEO of your own company  really that all-consuming?”

“Alam mo?”

After his stint in Dubai with a British conglomerate, Richard decided to take the reins of one of his father’s business interests at age 27. He turned an already successful construction supply company and expanded it into building and infrastructure. He first took on small contracts building residential homes, then small rise buildings then progressing to erecting skyscrapers.  He had also submitted bids and had been granted contracts for road laying projects for the government.  In fact, Ryan, Lim Infrastructure, Inc.’s corporate lawyer has been trying to finalise the contract for an ambitious under seawater project that would connect Mindoro to Luzon.

“Kuya Ryan keeps us updated each time” Maya nodded as her eyes twinkled  “mainly for  Mamang’s benefit. Number one fan mo yun, eh!”

Richard chuckled, shaking his head.

“I have been busy.”  More correctly, I have buried my head in work to stop myself from looking you up in Manila, he silently added. “But I’m a boring topic. I am more interested in you. What’s next for you?”

“Funny you should ask that…”

“Hmmnnnn?”

“I was asking myself that same question weeks ago. I was getting fed up with the crazy roster.”

Richard nodded in understanding. “You have been an FA for over five years so it is just natural that you may want to try something else.  What did you have in mind?”

“I was crosstrained as a ground crew so I got familiar with Time Airway’s  booking system about a year ago. I found that very interesting.”

“Well, that is certainly different but schedule-wise, I believe it’s as erratic as what you have now.”

“Yes, you’re right.  Check-in counters are also manned according to flight schedules.” Maya nodded “But I was thinking of starting my own travel agency instead.”

They discussed the merits and pitfalls of opening one’s own business enterprise. He gave her pointers like doing a feasibility study which includes knowing her target clients, researching what is already out there and what’s not, how much  running capital required, profitability, return of investment and others.

“It all boils down to how much time and money are you willing to invest in your new endeavour.” Richard said as he stopped the vehicle in front of the Dela Rosa residence. He turned to Maya who was still intently listening to what he said. Recognising an opportunity, he seized it. “Have dinner with me tonight.”

Maya blinked at the sudden topic change. “What did you say?”

“We can continue to explore this over dinner. You want that right?” Richard shrugged casually.

“Pero pwede naman nating pag-usapan sa bahay na lang, diba?”

“Too many distractions.”

“Sabagay nga” Maya glanced outside. Mamang, Nanay Teresita and her Kuya Ryan were already coming downstairs from the house to welcome them. Eight year old Luke and  six year old Nikki Grace were squealing right behind them.  Celine, Ryan’s wife,  remained at the top of the stairs, carrying  one month old Abigail.

Richard went down to open the passenger door but Ryan had already beat him to it so he doubled back to get Maya’s bags.

Ryan nodded his greeting at him. “Pare, umakyat ka na para makapag-almusal.”

“Oo naman Richaaaard, ”  seconded Mamang “dito ka na mag-agahan. Tocino, sinangag at ensaladang kamatis at iltog na maalat.”

“Sabay-sabay na tayong lahat”  Nanay Teresita declared.

Breakfast was a raumbunctious affair with all the four generations of  Dela Rosa together at the long narra dining table. Tatay Arturo was seated at the head of the table while Nanay Teresita  was on his right along with Maya, Cristina Rose and Mamang. Richard was given the honour of sitting on the other end. On Richard’s right were Ryan, Celine and their two older children.

“Maya, kamusta yung nanliligaw na piloto sayo? Yung matagal sa States para magtapos ng NBA?” interrupted Mamang.

“Mamang, MBA po.” Maya chucklingly  corrected her maternal grandmother. “Si Capt. James Ventura po yun, anak ng Managing Director ng Time Airways. Saka, hindi naman nanliligaw si  Capt. James.”

“Sus, papaano manliligaw yun, eh dine-deadma mo.” teased Cristina Rose. “Uy, si Simon nga pala ilang araw nang dumadaan dito. Pihado hinahanap ka,  hindi lang nagsasabi.”

“Nag-text ako sa kanya na ngayon ang dating ko, ah…”

“Ikaw naman, naninibago ka pa kay Simon, eh.  Palagi namang dumadalaw yun kahit wala ka. Manok ko yata yun.” claimed Mamang with a smile while scooping tomato salad on Richard’s plate.

“Mamang,” protested Maya “Kaibigan ko lang ho talaga si Simon.”

Richard felt some relief at Maya’s statements regarding her so-called admirers. He does not feel threatened by Simon.  By the sound of it, Simon has been  courting Maya for a long time.  And Richard concluded that  if Simon has not been successful with Maya after years of courting her, he never will be. However, this James character was an unknown quantity altogether.

“Eh, si Richard?” asked Nanay Teresita.

“Ho?” Maya looked at her mother in surprise.

Richard likewise focused on Nanay Teresita who calmly looked back at him. Has she finally guessed?

“Ikaw ba Richard wala ka pang balak mag-asawa?  Itong kaibigan mo, nakakatatlong supling na.  Papano ka makakahabol niyan!” teased Nanay Teresita.

“Kuya Richard, baka naman secret member ka ng Gay Pride movement? Baka kailangan mo ng ‘outing’ ceremony?” insinuated Cristina Rose who has been out of the closet herself since she was a teenager.

“Whaaat?” was all Richard could say when his sexual orientation was questioned jokingly.  He chuckled shaking his head.

“Cristina Rose” protested Ryan mock-seriously “That statement is enough grounds for a libel case for slander.  Take it from me, lalaking-lalake yang kaibigan ko. Kung magpalit nga yan ng babae parang nagpapalit lang ng polo—”

“Brod—” Richard objected before his friend  reveal anything more damning about him. He was looking at Maya, trying to gauge her reaction but her head was bowed down.  Due to this, Richard missed the speculation that took over  Nanay  Teresita’s  expression as her eyes flitted from him to Maya and back again.

“Baka naman may ibang  hinahanap si Richard.” Nanay Teresita said.

“Naku, Richaaaaard”  Mamang piped in  “kahit naku-cute-an ako sayo, masyado kang bata para sakin, ha!”

Everyone laughed at that, including Richard. He has missed this happy gathering at the Dela Rosa household.  He wished he had not stayed away. But at that time, it was for the best. He needed to give her the time to grow up and spread her wings. It also gave him the time to assess what he really feels for Maya.

After breakfast, Richard approached Tatay Arturo to request for a private talk. Tatay Arturo was still for a moment but readily agreed when he perceived the serious expression on Richard’s face. “Sige, dun tayo sa veranda. Teresita, paki-sunod mo na lang yung kape ko.”

to be continued…

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